Ronny and Jerry...Fifty Years later

     In 1950 my parents made a life changing decision when they became members of Peace Tabernacle, a United Pentecostal Church pastored by Reverend V.A. Guidroz  (See my blog “In Memory of Pastor V.A. Guidroz..)  Brother Guidroz had a large family, with children ranging in age from 5 years to beyond 20, and of course each one played a role in church activities and was vital to the operation of the church.  I was seven years of age at the time of my parents’ conversions, and my first Sunday School teacher in the Primary class was Sister Glory, who I learned later was Glory Guidroz, one of our pastor’s grown daughters.  I can remember to this day the Sunday she put the fifth star next to my name on a display board and said to me, “Well, Bobby, you’ve been here five Sundays in a row; we’re glad to have you in our class!”  I had found a home.  A couple of years later, when I graduated to the Junior class, Sister Glory gave me a small book of poetry with an inscription from her.  I still have that little book of memories.
    In one my family’s earliest services, I was sitting quietly on one of the pews just before the service began, and this skinny kid sat down next to me and said simply, “I’m Ronny, and I’m six.”  To which I replied, “I’m Bobby, and I’m seven!”  That pretty well set the pecking order, but though Ronny was my junior, he was to play a major role in my years of youth.  Truth be told, he is probably responsible for my remaining in the church to this day, for my marriage to the love of my life, and, without being too dramatic, perhaps for the good life I have enjoyed.
    I soon found out that Ronny was another of those Guidroz kids (they were everywhere,) but in time and with the benefit of now having been associated with many preachers’ kids over the years, I can look back and say unequivocally that Ronny was not your typical PK.  The description of the typical preacher’s kid will have to be reserved for another essay, and considering the fact that I married one, I would need to be careful what I said anyway.  As a rule, however, PKs live by a different set of rules.
    But Ronny, I found out, was a true friend.  I honestly cannot remember every being miffed at him, much less really angry.  He was a true disciple of his father’s ministry, and he preached the word in spirit and deed every time we got together.  Not that he preached a sermon or was patronizing, but that he lived what his father taught.  Example:  his father taught that we should let “our nays be nays and our yeas be yeas” and even words like “gosh” and “darn” should be avoided like the plague.  One time we were playing some sort of game and he said something profound. To which I replied, “Well, I’ll be doggone!”  For a second I thought I was going to be lightning struck when Ronny yelled, “Bobby! Don’t you know you can go to hell saying words like that!”  An overreaction?  Maybe.  But I can tell you this; I never said the word again, and to this day I’ve never gotten into the habit of throwing out those “marginal” words.
   Ronny and I shared many Sunday afternoons together.  Church would dismiss around 12:30, and we would go home with one of our families and spend the afternoon doing whatever young boys do, playing, talking, and eating.  We had no video games, no cell phones, no computers, nothing electronic…it was awful!  Actually, we never missed any of those things because we didn’t know what they were.  We played outside, created our own amusement, and had a great time.  Church time began again around 7:00 p.m. and we would reunite with our families.
    Many other precious memories of my association with Ronny have been described in my blog concerning Pastor Guidroz, so I won’t repeat them here, but suffice it to say, my early years were patterned by the behavior of my good friend.  If Ronny said it was OK, it was OK; if he said no, it was not.  It was probably a strange arrangement, a young kid giving another kid who was a year his senior advice concerning behavior, church affairs, and whatever, but I was new in the church, and Ronny always seemed mature far beyond his years.  Another example:  I have always been fairly athletic (well, used to be, anyway), and in junior high I began to excel in baseball, track, and to a smaller extent, football.  I could run the 100 and 220 yard dashes  (no 100 meter races back then) faster than the guys on the school track team and could hit or throw a baseball farther than anyone else (OK, another friend, James Shelby, could out throw me.)  As a result, the school athletic coaches were after me constantly to “go out” for track, or football, or baseball. 
     I never participated in school sponsored organized sports because Ronny told me that it would be detrimental to my church relationship.  It was not a threat; he (and his father) said simply that association with sports would demand my attention and draw my loyalties away from the church.  In sports activities, he said, I would be surrounded by people to whom church had no value and would hear language that was not appropriate.  Truthfully, my parents, though not excited about my association in sports, did not discourage me but let me make my own decision.  The influence of my friend, however, was strong, and I never participated in organized sports all the way through high school.  In our church there were other young people who did participate; some spiritually survived; some did not.  It is not for me to judge, but I made my own decision.  Sometimes when I’m watching a baseball game, I wonder, “What if…?”  but I get over it quickly.  I am content.
    Ronny’s influence really hit high gear when we discovered that girls were not so bad after all.  It’s probably hard to believe now, but there was a time when I was so shy I could hardly speak, especially to the other gender.  Ronny became my spokesman.  He would come to me and say, “Hey, Bobby, Shirley says she like you!”  To which I would reply, “Well, I like her, too.”  He would pass the message back to her, and suddenly Shirley and I were an “item.”  That is, until Ronny would come to me at some later date and say, “Shirley doesn’t want to go with you, anymore.”  After a moment of heartbreak, I would send my message of reply, “OK.”  This whole scenario happened more than once.
    In 1957, Shirley’s mother died, and a little more than a year later her father married Geraldine Lewis, a widow from Beaumont.  With her came her daughter, Jerry Ann, and within a short time both Ronny and I had something to live for and dream about: he about Jerry Ann and I about Shirley.  By that time I was driving and we foursome shared many dates together.  Even then, Ronny gave me guidance about dating such as (1) Always open the car door (passenger door, not driver door) for your date, (2) Carry a bottle of Aqua Velva in the glove compartment on a hot night in case you sweat, and (3) NEVER touch your date’s ears.  That last one I still wonder about. Besides, I was so shy it took every bit of my nerve just to touch her hand, anyway.  After every double date, Ronny and I would go to a nearby restaurant, drink a Coke, and Ronny would give me a de-briefing of my activities for the night.  Generally I would have made at least one faux paux which I dutifully promised not to repeat on the next date.
    For 99.9% of my life, there has only been one woman…Shirley. During the one major period in which Shirley and I were not communicating, Ronny set me up with the only real official date I ever had that did not include Shirley.  I picked up Carolyn Barrett in my dad’s brand new 1959 Mercury Park Lane and we headed to Galveston.  I took her to the best seafood restaurant on Seawall Boulevard, and she never ate so much as a cracker.  She looked like she wished she were somewhere else, and I was wondering what Shirley was doing.  Needless to say, in my report to Ronny, I said first date=last date.
    In 1959, Brother Guidroz resigned the pastorship of Peace Tabernacle, and my good friend moved away…not far…but away.  We stayed in touch and managed to visit somewhat regularly at the Creel house, the home of our loves.  On some occasions, I would visit Shirley and Jerry when Ronny was not around.  During this time Jerry wanted to learn to drive a car, so we three would pile into my car and head to an unpopulated area, usually out Tri-Cities Beach Road.  There Jerry would take the wheel while I sat in the middle (God bless bench seats in cars) with Shirley on the right.  Jerry would take off, screaming bloody murder as she drove shakily down the two lane road.  I would monitor her progress while Shirley and I…um…discussed politics.  Those were the days.
   Shirley and I married in 1961 with Ronny as my Best Man and Jerry as Shirley’s Maid of Honor.  It was a foregone conclusion that Ronny and Jerry were on their way to matrimony, but their schedule became clouded when it was discovered that Geraldine had developed cancer.  1962 became a year of triumph and tragedy as Ronny and Jerry married, and Geraldine succumbed to her battle with cancer.  For me, my best friend had become my (step)brother-in-law. We foursome became even closer.
   Our closeness took a hit in 1963 as I joined the United States Air Force.  Don’t ask me why, I just did.  The result was Shirley and I became somewhat nomadic for four years as we bounced between assignments in Texas, Indiana, and Germany.  Ronny had followed in his father’s footsteps and became a minister, and our paths seemed to drift farther and farther apart.  Fortunately the distance apart was only a geographic distance, and we managed to keep in touch and visit one another when the opportunity arose.  Ronny became a successful pastor and teacher, and Jerry a faithful, dutiful minister’s wife while enjoying the coming of beautiful children.  They have been a great service to churches throughout the United Pentecostal Church organization.  Shirley and I have lived in 29 different locations, but are happily retired and settled within easy distance of our kids and grandkids.
     Last year, Shirley and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary in Hawaii.  A few days ago, Ronny and Jerry celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a grand reception at Bethel Tabernacle.  A veritable Who’s Who of the United Pentecostal Church was in attendance, and it was clear that their outpouring of love and appreciation for Ronny and Jerry (excuse me, Reverend Ronald and Sister Jerry Guidroz) was genuine.  Their children talked about their parents’ stability, and various ministers talked about their dedication. Given the opportunity, I would have talked about their friendship, and what it has meant to Shirley and me. In Proverbs 18:24, there is a scripture which, although describing God, also describes my brother-in-law, Ronny Guidroz…”and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”